After Jerusalem, Trump will have Palestinian blood on his hands within days

After Jerusalem, Trump will have Palestinian blood on his hands within days
Comment: Israel's support for Trump's embassy move would expose its 'desire for peace' as a lie, writes Hilary Aked.
5 min read
06 Dec, 2017
Palestinian Protesters in Rafah, slogan reads 'Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine', 6 December [AFP]
Reports that Donald Trump plans to recognise Israel as the capital of Israel today, have been greeted with widespread anger. Undoubtedly, such a declaration will cost lives.

But in the long term it could - ironically - also cost Israel, by exposing the lie that it "wants peace" once and for all.

Trump informed Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah of his plans on Tuesday, and spoke to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egypt's al-Sisi the same day.

Preparations for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will begin immediately but in practice could take several years.

The change of US policy not only flouts international law, which forbids the acquisition of territory by force, but also the decades-old international consensus that a future Palestinian state would have its capital in East Jerusalem.

However, this consensus has long been merely something to which the world's most powerful governments paid lip service, but did little to bring about. Trump's move does away with that passive hypocrisy and replaces it instead with an active embrace of Israeli exceptionalism, confirming unequivocally that the US is no "honest broker" in the Middle East.

Since Jerusalem is holy to Islam and Christianity as well as Judaism, there could well be protests across the Muslim world, and beyond. For their part, Palestinians outraged by this new provocation - exacerbating the pre-existing status quo in the city of gradual dispossession and ethnic cleansing through house demolitions and revocation of residency rights - are already planning mass demonstrations.

Israel's deep racism and extremism is being thoroughly exposed

Fatah called for "marches of rage" while Hamas issued a call for a popular uprising to thwart the move. Trump has unintentionally created a cause which may - for a time at least - consolidate of the fragile unity agreement between the rival Palestinian factions.

Israel's restriction of access to the al-Aqsa mosque alone perennially causes Palestinian protests which, as ever, are violently repressed. As recently as this summer, Palestinians were killed while demonstrating against not being allowed to worship there.

But the Palestinian uprising against these new moves will be on an altogether bigger scale - and will again be put down with brutal force by Israel. As such, Trump will almost certainly have Palestinian blood on his hands within days, in a more direct and obvious way than ever before.

Yet Israel's delight in Trump's unilateral move and its eagerness to exploit the opportunities offered by his administration to extend its control of Palestinian land could sow the seeds of its own demise.

For in the Trump era, Israel's deep racism and extremism is being thoroughly exposed. Its claim to desire peace is being laid bare as a lie.

The calls of figures like Israeli education and diaspora minister Naftali Bennett to recognise "Judea and Samaria" (the West Bank) as part of Israel are, evidently now, the mainstream of Israeli politics. As a result, the "peace process" facade and the "two state solution" sham may finally have to be laid to rest. 

Already the planned announcement is having a radicalising effect on the PA. Manuel Hassassian, the PA's diplomatic representative in the UK told Radio 4's Today programme this morning that Trump was, diplomatically speaking, "declaring war on the Middle East".

A spokesperson for Abbas said the Palestinian leadership would cut ties with the US administration if Trump presses ahead with the move.

The intensified violence and upheaval will leave Israel and the US in unprecedented isolation

Moreover, the fault lines with Europe will grow ever larger. The German foreign minister and French president immediately condemned Trump's plan as did the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief.

In the long run, a fracture between the US and Europe on Middle East policy could create a polarising effect. A European bloc no longer yoked to compromise with the US and UK could well choose to pursue its own anti-settlement policy with more bite than ever before. 

Meanwhile Turkey and even Saudi Arabia - both countries with which Israel had been making significant process in normalising relations - have expressed alarm and strong opposition to the move.

Although daily violence is perpetrated against Palestinians and there has never been "peace" or "stability", the intensified violence and upheaval which will inevitably be provoked by Trump's move will leave Israel and the US in unprecedented isolation, albeit still militarily supreme.

Critically, the grassroots Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel will also be accelerated by Trump's stance. It will likely continue to make inroads into local government and national parliaments. We will see more moves like the recent endorsement of BDS by hundreds of elected officials in Spain.

Read more: EU calls for Jerusalem to be capital of both Palestine and Israel

Palestinians will suffer as a direct result of Trump's high-handed and reckless gesture. But by licensing Israel's annexation in order to pander to the domestic US Israel lobby, the influence of the Jerusalem issue could bring matters to a head.

Just as Trump has sought to roll back Obama's policies, the move could eventually force a post-Trump president to acknowledge the one-state reality that exists in Israel/Palestine. Then, as ex-president Jimmy Carter observed more than a decade ago, they would have to make a choice between "peace" or "apartheid".

Hilary Aked is an analyst and researcher whose PhD studies focus on the influence of the Israel lobby in the United Kingdom. 

Follow her on Twitter: @Hilary_Aked

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.